Skip to main content

Full text of "Verdict On India"

See other formats

206                                    VERDICT  OX INDIA
But apart from its human interest, this tragedy arouses two
questions, and for that reason it is essential to examine, however
briefly, its causes.
Those questions are, firstly, to what extent was the Central
Government responsible ? The manner in which we answer this
question will decide in what degree wre must regard the famine as
a blot on our Imperial record.
Secondly, to what extent was the Provincial Government respon-
sible ?   The manner in which we answer this question will decide in
what degree India may be regarded as capable of self-government.
Let us tackle this problem as swiftly and concisely as possible.
There were three main causes of the famine.    Here they are in
order of their importance.   However diffident I may feel about
some of the opinions expressed in this book I am not in the least
diffident about these.   These are facts which admit of no argument.
The first and far the most important cause was Nature herself.
The crop of August 1942 was one of the worst on record ; it was
followed in October by devastating cyclones.   In the meantime
the whole of the Burmah crop had been lost in the fortunes of war.
As if this were not enough, the spring of 1943 was marked by
devastating floods, which disrupted communications already over-
burdened by war transport.
Wliatever form of government had been in power—even if there
had been a Central Government entirely composed of geniuses
and a Provincial Government entirely composed of saints—there
would have been famine, and the man who denies it is, quite
bluntly, a liar.
The second cause of the famine was the corruption, incom-
petence, and irresponsibility of the Provincial Government.
Judging from the debates in the House of Commons, it would
appear that many members of the opposition were totally unaware
that there was such a thing as a Provincial Government m Bengal
at all—a government, moreover, that was overwhelmingly
Indian in composition, entrusted with powers that should have
been adequate to deal with the situation, and, even if they had not
been adequate, could have been reinforced by prompt appeal to
Delhi. (The appeal, as we shall see, was not made till it was too
late.) The speeches of the British Labour members, in particular,